The Metta Pyoe Wai self-help group (SHG) was established in 2017 and is comprised of 11 members, all of whom are landmine survivors and persons with disabilities (PWDs) who live Kayah State, Myanmar. Three of the members are adults with disabilities, while eight are children who are represented by their family members, including mothers and grandmothers. A majority of the group’s members, including its leadership, are women.
SHGs are grassroots community groups comprised of PWDs and their families, who work together to provide peer support, advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, and volunteer in their communities. After attending a World Education leadership training, the Metta Pyoe Wai members collectively established goals for the group, which include helping PWDs participate equally in community life, helping other SHG members when they are in need, and working to increase local services for PWDs. At their monthly meetings, the members of Metta Pyoe Wai discuss plans to save money and recruit additional members. They also work to raise awareness about the group through word of mouth, meetings after church, and working with village leaders.
Initially, Metta Pyoe Wai received a cow as a start-up grant through support from World Education, and this cow has recently given birth. The group has also devised a savings plan, and every month, 1,000 kyat (approximately US 65 cents) is collected from each member and put into an account which, in the short term, will be used to provide small loans to members. The group aims to continue saving money over the next three years and then use what they have saved to improve services for PWDs in their community.
Under funding from USAID and with additional support from the Grapes for Humanity Global Foundation, four Metta Pyoe Wai members attended a World Education capacity building training in Loikaw, which included a module on the current state of the peace process in Myanmar. The peace process is a subject that the members feel it is important for PWDs to learn more about. Though peace and reconciliation were new topics for them, the Metta Pyoe Wai members reported that they learned a lot and hope to continue learning more about the peace process in the future. They also hope to attend additional trainings on topics such as leadership, the English language, and financial management.
Through their hard work, members of Metta Pyoe Wai have already noticed a change in community attitudes towards disability. As one member explains, “It has gone from ‘you can’t work and you can’t do things’ to ‘I don’t see a disability.’”